If we had an electric crystal ball, the question we’d most like to ask is: When will a next-generation battery, with substantially improved range, show up in a production EV? According to Nissan, that Earth-shaking event may happen around 2017.
At last month’s Beijing auto show, Executive VP Andy Palmer told Automotive News that a new battery chemistry will appear in the next-generation LEAF and, somewhat earlier, in a new Infiniti plug-in which will be launched by the end of March 2017 at the latest. The Infiniti EV, which features wireless inductive charging, was originally scheduled to debut 2014, but the company decided to wait for better battery technology.
“The battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That’s where you see the technology moving very, very fast,” said Palmer. “This really is the game-changing technology.”
Palmer offered no estimate of the new models’ range, but he did say that future EVs needed to have a range of around 186 miles to be competitive with the hydrogen fuel cell cars being developed by Toyota and others. The 2014 LEAF has a rage of about 84 miles.
Nissan also plans improvements to the battery in the current-generation LEAF to give it a longer life in hot climates – this issue has been highlighted by a vocal group of Arizona LEAF owners. The new hot-weather battery chemistry could be introduced as early as the 2015 model year.
Nissan execs also said that the next-generation LEAF will have a more mainstream design. “The current LEAF is aiming too much at an EV-like appearance,” said Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s global design chief. “Tesla doesn’t look EV at all. The Tesla S just looks nice, very sporty, sleek, but very authentic.”